‘Till death us do part’ say the vows. Whilst many people have monogamous marriages and ‘forsake all others’, affairs are also a fact of life. But is infidelity always a bad thing? Can a relationship remain healthy when the bedroom door is flung open to other players? And are people who cheat always wrong?
With up to one in three marriages ending in divorce and increasing trends in both male and female promiscuity, it can be tempting to wonder whether the human race is meant to be monogamous. There are numerous reasons why people have affairs. Research suggests that men tend to cheat for physical reasons where women cheat for emotional ones. Statistically, people are most likely to cheat between the ages of 23 and 42.
Often people have a fling with someone else because they are lazy or scared. It is seen as an easier “quick fix” alternative to facing the inherent problems of their relationship. The most common complaints, particularly from men, are lack of sex or not enough steamy sex. It’s usually something lacking, be it communication, emotional support or satisfying sex.
The turmoil that divorce can cause can be too much for some people to handle. An affair may seem like an easier and, let’s face it, more pleasurable option. Many people are fully aware of their partner’s wandering eye and choose to ignore it. Or they have an affair themselves, believing that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
For some people, having an affair is a ‘rush’; the risk triggers an endorphin release – and it’s cheaper than a parachute jump.
People in long-term relationships may commit adultery to liven up their lives, believing that their relationship has become dull, lifeless and mundane. They may still love their partner but need to validate their sexuality somehow.
Revenge is a powerful emotion that can bring out the Hyde in the most passive Jekyll. Unresolved arguments, or the suspicion that another is cheating can make it all too easy to jump into bed with someone else. Forget ‘Hell hath no fury.’. Hell hath absolutely no idea of the destructive power of a scorned woman; just ask John Wayne Bobbit.
Most people are aware that dishonesty or deceit in a relationship will be harmful. Going behind your partner’s back will not spice things up. It will generally be a sure-fire way of ending up in the street with your possessions flying round your ears from an upstairs window. But what happens when infidelity is a mutual decision?
Some people nowadays are adopting a more open stance on their sexual relationships, stretching the boundaries with their partner and sharing their lover – and themselves – with other people. For successful ‘open relationships’ to work, a broad minded philosophy is required from both parties, coupled with an ability to disassociate yourselves from making love and having sex. Both partners have to agree that they are willing to be ‘open’, but even then, few relationships are emotionally strong enough for one or the other not to become jealous, so handle with care.
Even within such a relationship, the degree of openness varies from couple to couple. Some openly admit too, and even describe in intricate detail their discrepancies and others have an “understanding” which is rarely discussed.
Let’s face it, one night stands can be fun; having illicit liaisons where you know little more than your sexual partner’s name and are both secure in the knowledge that when the sun comes up, you will both depart in separate directions. This kind of fling is often easier for people in open relationships to deal with than either partner having a more emotional connection with another person.
The ’50s saw the advent of the swinging, previously known as wife swapping. Swingers often claim that they feel intense sexual arousal towards their partner when they see their partner with someone else, which invariably leads to mind blowing sex.
Swingers seem to have found a way of converting negative emotions such as jealousy into positive ones. They find that the thrill lies in imagining (or watching) someone else pleasuring their partner, yet knowing that essentially their partner loves them and will always come home with them, both physically and emotionally.
And here lies the golden ticket, you have to be sure that the love you have for each other is strong enough to bring you both back. Infidelity, be it open or closeted, can damage your relationship. And you’ve got to know whether you’re prepared to take that risk.